Beyond the Blog

How to Help Your Coworker After a Medical Event

How to Help Your Coworker After a Medical Event

by Rachel Minion

It’s almost astounding, but the data is there. Pre-COVID, we may have spent more time with our co-workers per week than we do with our families. Working 40+ hours a week with 80%+ of your time in meetings, you get to know these team members on a personal level.

Once COVID hit, we got to know our co-workers even better as we were coming face to face from the “privacy” of their own home.

When a medical event happens to one of our team members, we may not always know how to support them. We may not know their spouses information or their home address. We may not know the appropriate thing to do.

We all need a little help from our friends, especially after a medical event.

If you find out that a team member is having a baby, is having surgery, has a death in the family, or has any other medical event, here are the things they may need help with:

  • Food delivery or Meal Trains
  • Cleaning Services
  • Transportation Services
  • Childcare
  • Dog Walker
  • Cash for Out of Pocket Expenses
  • Gift Cards to Purchase Recovery Products

These services are imperative to improving the quality of life after a medical event.

We founded Beyond Basic Needs to connect you to the tools to help your network thrive after a medical event. We have partnered with Give InKind, an easy-to-use online tool for organizing support during life’s important and challenging moments.

This technology makes it easy to support our team members and let them know we care. It is simple to use, quick to get started, and informs the support network exactly what is needed and when.

Together, we can.

Posted by Rachel in Beyond the Blog

How Not to Tell Your Support Network You Have Cancer

How Not to Tell Your Support Network You Have Cancer

by Rachel Minion
and Jon Minion

In theory, there is no right or wrong way to tell your support network you have cancer. In reality, there is a 100% wrong way.

Going back to my appointment, I was seen late, my appointment took forever and now it’s about 4:30pm.

I shoot a quick text to my parents and my husband.

Aren't group texts the best???? I hadn't heard from her in a while, which is normal because this hospital is well-known for having no cell service. Who knows when her appointment is going to end - and then she has to deal with Friday afternoon Chicago traffic. The only thoughts going through my mind are getting home, handling the monsters and cracking open a beer.

SO… I HAVE CANCER.

Then I stop at the front desk to make a future appointment.

It was at that moment when I realized I made a huge mistake.

My phone was dead and turned itself off.

I walk past the scheduler, head out of the building, run to the car and see if we have a phone charger. Nope.

I get in the car and start driving towards my house. What should take 30-45 minutes ended up taking well over TWO HOURS. My phone was dead. Traffic was not moving. I just got the news I have cancer and all I want is a hug. Somehow I manage to get home in one piece.

dead cell phone

My single text sent off a flurry of other text messages on the chain. My phone went straight to voicemail because it was dead. My husband had just gotten on his motorcycle to drive home so he hadn’t seen the message. My parents were calling and texting nonstop until he got home and could access his phone. Jon wasn’t quite sure what was going on, so he scrolled through to the beginning of the messages. I can’t speak for him as to what he was feeling, but I’m making him write his own series of blogs so you can understand from a caretaker’s perspective the thoughts and emotions.

47. 47 unread text messages. Some of them in the group text with Rachel and her parents. The majority are texts her parents sent me without her in the loop. "Where are you?" "What's going on?" "Is she ok?" "Did she make it home?" Wait...what? Scroll up... Cancer? What? Is this real? She just drops that bomb and disappears? Should I be mad? Is this some kind of joke? What do I do? I can't reach her. Her parents are freaking out. I figured out she left the hospital to come home, so all I could do is wait. That was a long two hours...

By the time I walked in the door, I knew… this was not how anyone should ever deliver the news that they have cancer.

As a spouse, how do I tell people in my network? Who do I tell? I know how NOT to tell them, so there's that.

So what do you do if you have to tell your network you have cancer? It’s not as easy as you would think.

I believe that my support network will do whatever it takes to help me thrive. However, I wasn’t ready to get on the phone with anyone to tell them I have cancer. It took me a few weeks and then I was ready to go public.

I had to wait until she was ready. We told our parents because we needed support. I told my boss pretty quick because I knew I would need some time off and some help at the office. But I had to wait until she was ready before I could tell anyone else. Of course I did. It's the right thing to do. But even when she was ready, it was tough. I'm not very good at talking about emotional things or asking for help. This was hard. Talking about the situation really was one of the most difficult parts of the whole process.

The first thing I did was to tell my closest friends and family via text. I know… If you got a text from me with this news, what would you do? It was my fastest way to communicate where I could avoid the initial crying and shock. It minimized my risk, but must have shocked any person who received my message.

Then I took to Facebook and posted my story.

The minute I shared my diagnosis and pending surgeries with my network, everyone wanted to help by sending in dinner, helping bring in cleaning services and even securing dog walkers for our three monsters. While I wanted to be able to allow everyone to help, project managing and coordinating all of the offers was too much for me. I didn't know the area, so we didn't have favorite restaurants, a cleaning service or even dog walkers. Each of my family and friends felt helpless when I turned them down. It was personally too much for me to handle on top of preparing for the upcoming surgeries.

We are so lucky. We have a great network of people willing to help, begging to help. But our network was not in Chicago. How do we let them help? What can they do? What do we need? All we can focus on is beating cancer. Nothing else matters. Besides, I got this. I can firefight my way through the situation and take care of all the stuff around the house and be there for Rachel at the same time. Right??

Technology makes life incredibly easy to share our stories, however I couldn’t find any technology to help me accept support.

This is why we founded Beyond Basic Needs. We connect you to the tools you need to thrive in this period of time with the help of your friends, family and support community. We have partnered with Give InKind, an easy-to-use online tool for organizing support during life’s important and challenging moments.

Together, we can.

Posted by Rachel in Beyond the Blog

A Beautiful Disaster – Part 2

A Beautiful Disaster - Part 2

by Rachel Minion
and Jon Minion

Fast forward to a few weeks after my appendix burst. I’m sitting in the surgeon’s waiting room. It’s a Friday afternoon and I’m excited for the weekend.

Things were on the up and up. I had a successful surgery to remove my encapsulated appendix. Summer in Chicago is incredible. We found a rooftop bar where we can hear live acoustic music while watching the sun go down. On top of that, I accepted a new position and turned in my resignation letter. It’s time for a celebration, or so I thought.

I'm a lucky guy. Rachel was amazing through surgery and is recovering great. And my mom was able to drive over from Iowa and spend a few days with us while Rachel was in the hospital. We are very fortunate and thankful for this time she was able to give us. It allowed me the opportunity to take care of some things at the house while she stayed with Rachel. We had the monsters taken care of. I don't know how we would have done it without her. Thanks mom!

Chicago

Looking back now, it seems odd to me that they told me I could come by myself for the appointment.

Yep, come alone. We asked multiple times. Rachel was confident in driving down to the hospital and handling the follow-up, so I went to work thinking it was just another day.

I was sitting in this lovely brick building (with no cell service) and the Doctor is running about an hour and a half late. It’s no big deal because I turned in my resignation letter the day before and I can make up my hours this weekend.

"They're running late", she texts. No worries. I'll get out of the office as soon as I can and take care of the monsters. Then we can celebrate cause it's Friday and this appendix problem will be behind us soon.

It’s finally my turn to head to the back. Normally the Nurses are joking around with me, but today was different. They sent the Doctor and a different Nurse into the room to see me.

Without missing a beat, the Doctor says, “SO YOU HAVE CANCER.”

I guess right now I should give you a little backstory on my personality. I am a strong, resilient woman who has the mouth of a sailor mixed with the snark of the character Darlene Connor from Roseanne.

My first response was short, blunt and to the point. “No. That isn’t possible. You can tell the guys from Candid Camera that this isn’t funny. I get it. I quit my job 24 hours ago. They thought this would be funny and it’s not. So bring in the cameras and let’s get this appointment over with.”

Darlene played by Sarah Gilbert on Roseanne

The Doctor and Nurse looked at each other, then looked back at me. The Doctor said, “I’ll give you a minute.”

Needless to say, it was quite before I could get my thoughts together while with my head running rampant.
A few more minutes of sitting and staring at each other and they could see the words couldn’t come out. Most people would ask for next steps or prognosis. I wasn’t there yet. I was still in denial. The questions were circling around my head like some horrible hallucination.

The Doctor senses that it’s the time to discuss next steps and the next surgery I need. The tumor was small and spotted on a biopsy only a week after my first surgery so we needed one more surgery to make sure that they got clear margins. They never would have found this had my appendix not burst. It most likely would have spread to colon cancer. That is the bright side.

The not-so-bright side started taking over all the rest of my thoughts:

  • HOW AM I GOING TO DO THIS?
  • How can I have cancer in my mid-thirties?
  • I just got married, am I going to live long enough to have children?
  • I can’t leave my family just yet.
  • I don’t want to die.
  • Is this something I can tell my support network?
  • How am I going to get through any phone call from my support network after I tell them I have cancer?
  • Have I even lived yet? How can I start thinking about dying?
  • I’m a terrible patient, do I really want to do another surgery?
  • What if I need chemo or radiation?
  • How can I just make this death spiral of horrible questions stop?

You can imagine. The minute you hear the C-word, life changes and it changes immediately. The things that seemed so incredibly important 5 minutes before were now insignificant.

I can't imagine how she felt. Alone. Confused. Scared. I had no idea this was happening. This was supposed to be a routine follow-up! I should have been there with her. I should not have listened to the doctors when they said she can come alone. She should not be alone.

As you can see, the last thing a person diagnosed with cancer even thinks about is basic needs. We all need food, laundry, childcare, dog care, transportation. Thinking about how to handle any of these basic needs is overwhelming. Thinking about how to tell your support network and project manage incoming support is even more overwhelming.

This is why we created Beyond Basic Needs. It needs to be stupid simple to ask for help and even easier to receive support from your network. We connect you to the platform that makes it easy to manage and get help for basic services including food delivery, cleaning services, transportation services and other basic needs at no charge to the individual. Our volunteer network spreads awareness and helps those in need utilize the technology to organize support.

Posted by Rachel in Beyond the Blog

A Beautiful Disaster – Part 1

A Beautiful Disaster - Part 1

by Rachel Minion
and Jon Minion

It was an amazing day in Manhattan. I was flying high, ready to walk into that Verizon Executive Conference and rock this meeting.

While I can’t remember if the meeting was located in the Adobe or Google offices, I will tell you that it was a day I expected to be a highlight of my NYC trips. It was an honor and a privilege to be able to walk through these halls that morning and I was even more excited about the tour after the meeting.

This trip started out like any other. Disappointed that we had to spend a few days apart. But man, we were both thrilled with the opportunity she had to be part of this conference and make this trip. What a great week for our family!

Google NYC
Google

I sat next to one of my favorite people and started taking in the room around me. Then it happened. I was a little uncomfortable at first. I started sweating then turned green. The smells of coffee were overpowering. Then I noticed that my comfy pair of pants went from fitting perfectly to way too tight in the matter of minutes. Within minutes, I was nauseous.

I excused myself from the meeting and did what any other GenXer would do, I Googled my symptoms. (It’s funny that I had to Google while sitting in Google.) BOOM… there it was. I’m pregnant.

You know how it is. You drop her off at the airport. It's a short trip. She's been texting consistently since she got off the plane in NYC. You wish her luck before she heads into her big meeting the next day and don't expect to hear back from her for hours. And then it hits...

"Babe, I don't feel good." She tells you about the stomach pain. She tells you about the nausea. She tells you about how she's going to take all the coffee out of the room. She tells you she thinks she's pregnant... Wait. Really?? You had to go to NYC to find out your pregnant? Things are going to be different now.

I went back into the meeting and tried to get my head (and body) back into work mode. Thank god it was only a two-hour meeting. Rather than stay around and chat, I jumped in a cab, headed to the airport and took the first flight home to Chicago.

This entire experience so far was a little rough, but manageable until we hit Chicago traffic. The 30-minute drive lasted over 2 hours. By the time I got home and in the door, the symptoms were still there and more persistent than ever.

Come home babe. I'll pick you up at the airport - no problem. Longest drive to O'Hare in my life. Scared. Excited. Just happy she's coming home.

Chicago Traffic

As a newlywed, the feeling of being pregnant in a new city was exciting. It was everything we had hoped, planned and prayed for.

How are we going to fit the monsters AND a carseat in this little Subaru? Our apartment? Forget that, we need a house. 

This “pregnancy” wasn’t going as expected. It was a few days after the NYC trip and I’m still miserable. On top of the symptoms I was experiencing, I realized I had severe stomach pain. I whip out my phone and start Googling pregnancy and stomach pain. To summarize, I’m a wimp. Every woman is complaining about severe stomach pain. I don’t know how I am going to get through a week, much less 9 months like this.

Now that I'm done thinking about and planning life 9 months from now - yes, it takes a while for that to pass sometimes... This isn't how it's supposed to go. You're in so much pain you can't sleep. You're so bloated you can't fit comfortably in yoga pants. How many times do we need to talk about going to a doctor before we actually go to a doctor?

About a week and a half after NYC, I realize something is wrong. My husband takes me to the emergency clinic around the corner from the house. They do a pregnancy test and it turns out that I’m not pregnant. They do a minor exam, draw some blood and send me home.

Not pregnant..... ok. Well. I guess we get more practice.

The next morning (Sunday), we get a call at 8 am from an unknown Chicago number. The lab from the emergency clinic called to tell me they’ve never seen a white blood cell count that high. All they could tell me was that I needed to go to the hospital immediately.

We get a call alright. Neither of us are particularly fond of going to the doctor. We take our time to get there. We take the monsters out for a quick walk. We hop in the shower. Then she hits me with "I'm hungry and they probably won't let me eat for a while. Let's get bagels." In Chicago, that means only one thing for us: Chicago Bagel Authority! This isn't a quick stop, but eventually we get to the ER...

Jon drops me off at the ER while he goes to find parking. The nurse at the check-in desk is cool, calm and collected as she takes vitals and then she reads the test results from the lab. She raised an eyebrow, sent me to registration and sprinted to the back to consult with a Doctor.

I had about 45 seconds with the lovely woman working the registration desk before they came with a wheelchair and took me straight to the back. Needless to say, registration would have to wait.

A few hours later and a few tests down, the doctor comes in and tells us the news. My appendix burst.

I guess he could read my face and let me ask the only question I could think of. “Don’t you die if your appendix bursts?” He assured me that not only was I not dead, but would recover from this. Since I waited a week-and-a-half before going to seek treatment, I would need to be treated in the hospital for a few days to fight infection. I would need to schedule a future surgery in a few weeks after I recovered from the infection.

Wait. So, the appendix is full of poison, which is now running through her body, and you're just going to give her some antibiotics and wait 6 weeks? Are you sure about this, doc? How can I protect her from this? Truth is...I really can't. This is the most helpless I've felt as an adult. Sure, I can make her life easier: do the heavy lifting, take care of the monsters, let her rest as much as possible. But I can't fix this. 

It’s that moment when it hits me…

  • HOW AM I GOING TO DO THIS?
  • We are in a new city where we know no one.
  • We have three dogs who need to be walked and fed.
  • If I need surgery, what is recovery going to be like?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • Can my husband take off work as we just moved here for him to start the new job?
  • When am I going to be home from the hospital?
  • Will insurance cover this?
  • How do I tell my boss that I need time off (without knowing how long exactly)?
  • Who is going to take care of the stuff around the house that had to get done?
  • What in the world am I going to do for a few days while sitting in the hospital?
  • Am I going to be alone at night in the hospital?
  • Will I have a private room?
  • What do I need to do in order to be released?
  • HOW AM I GOING TO DO THIS?
  • WHAT DO I DO?
  • How much time do I need off?
  • Can I get time off?
  • Who is going to take care of the monsters?
  • Will I be able to stay with her overnight at the hospital?
  • How do I stay with her and make sure she comes home to a clean house?
  • How do I make sure the laundry gets done?
  • Who can I trust to help?
  • Who can I ask to help?
  • WHAT DO I DO?

As a patient, how do you ask for help? How do you get support from your network? What do you do? How do you do it? Are you seeming needy? Does it seem stupid for asking for help? How am I going to manage the support people offer?

Most of us who are in this situation experience some form of guilt or shame, which causes us to never ask our network for help. The stigma in asking for help is so great that most times, we take the burden upon ourselves, making it impossible to thrive.

HOWEVER, if our network actually knows about the situation and very specific ways they can help, they will. We all want to help each other. It’s part of human nature.

If you or your loved one haven’t been in the hospital for an extended period of time, you wouldn’t know what to do to support them. How do you support a co-worker in times of crisis? How do you support a loved one in times of need? How do you support a friend who is experiencing a medical event?

We know that after a medical event, you need help. We know that asking for help is hard. We know that project managing support can be overwhelming. This is why we founded Beyond Basic Needs.

At Beyond Basic Needs, we connect you to the tools you need to thrive in this period of time with the help of your friends, family and support community. We have partnered with Give InKind, an easy-to-use online tool for organizing support during life’s important and challenging moments.

Each InKind Page empowers communities to help from anywhere through a Care Calendar, Wishlist, News and Updates, Donations, and more. From the birth of a baby, to the loss of a loved one, to medical crisis, and disasters, Give InKind makes support simple so that no one goes through a big moment alone.

Together, we can.

Posted by Rachel in Beyond the Blog